January is a popular time for dieting. The new year, as well as a festive season full of eating and drinking means many people will start the year looking for a fast and effective way to lose weight.
While it may be tempting to be try the latest headline-grabbing diet or something you’ve read about on the internet, you should do your research first. Taking a healthy approach to dieting is more likely to yield successful results, helping you lose weight at a steady rate and forming better eating habits to keep up so that you can maintain your weight.
Why you should avoid fad diets
It’s easy to find a diet that will help you lose weight fast, but the problem is that these diets seldom work long-term. Once you go back to your old eating habits, the weight soon begins to creep up again.
The NHS recommends that you avoid fad diets for many reasons. Severely limiting your calorie intake could not only lead to illness, but can also cause longer term damage too. Cutting out entire foods, like carbohydrates, can also leave you feeling sluggish and leave your body unable to function fully – while also being unrealistic to stick to.
Taking a healthy approach to dieting
The basic principles for weight loss relate to how much we consume versus how much we burn. Changing your habits permanently can help you to maintain a healthy weight. Eating less and exercising more are typical ways of losing weight, and by cutting down on your alcohol intake or eating less sugar and fat – you might not even need to make drastic changes.
Healthy weight loss occurs at a rate of 1-2lbs a week, which means that you’ll need to eat 500-600 fewer calories a day to achieve this goal. You can get a more accurate measure of how many calories your body needs in a day using the BBC’s iWonder calorie calculator.
Starting your new healthier diet
There are some things you do to start cutting how many calories you eat in a day, including:
- Giving up alcohol, or drinking less of it
- Switching to low-fat products such as milk and cheese and replacing cream with yoghurt.
- Swapping your usual white bread, pasta, etc, for wholegrain varieties.
- Eat more fruit and vegetables
- Eat a healthy breakfast, limiting sugary breakfasts in favour of fruit, porridge or eggs.
- Cutting down on how many snacks you eat – you might find that a glass of water or cup of tea helps to ease the craving.
In addition to eating healthier, you should also aim to exercise more. Exercising can help you to burn additional calories, while also keeping you healthy. You should aim to complete around 150 minutes of aerobic exercise a week.
While there may be supplements or medication advertised as being able to help you lose weight quickly, these should be avoided. There are ways to find out more about what you’re buying to help you avoid buying anything that could potentially be dangerous.
How to stay on track
It can be difficult to maintain a healthy diet, but it’s important that you stick at it. Anticipating situations where you might stray from healthy eating, such as going to the cinema or a party where there’ll be a buffet can help you plan ahead to help you stay on track. Eat before you leave the house, avoid carrying excess money for food and searching for healthy menu options can help you stick to your diet during different social situations.
If you do have a slip-up, remember that you’re only human. Tomorrow is a different day and you can always start again. You’re aiming for a lifestyle change, which is something that will take time.
If you’re serious about dieting to lose weight, then NHS Choices has a number of resources that can help you. They have a 12-week diet plan which aims to help people lose weight the healthy way, helping to form healthy habits for life. Avoid fad diets and take a healthier approach to dieting instead.